tv Diversity in History Films CSPAN January 10, 2016 4:30pm-6:01pm EST
argues that there's a lack of diversity in historical films and this affects how history is presented to the viewing public. the group also talks about how and why this issue should be addressed. this 90 minute discussion as jointf the film forum, a venture between the smithsonian institution and national endowment for the humanities. >> welcome to the forum. [applause] i am chris wilson, here from the national museum of american history, along with our earners, the national endowment for the humanities. we are so happy you decided to join with us in this four day exploration of history on the screen. we came up with the idea to do the history film forum about two years ago. idea of justt
looking at how history is interpreted through film and film as public history was a fairly simple idea. we would just show some films and so four. -- so forth. howoon again taking about in hollywood and even in documentary filmmaking, the issues around what film gets what historyefore gets told, who is making the film and so forth, we decided to portray a few of those issues in the film form. we want to talk about the films that don't get made, the stories that don't get told. toi was thinking of how bring that out in the program, one day i happened to be driving in the car and was listening to the radio, wamu here in d.c.
in the evenings they play cbc shows. i was on my way to play hockey, so it made sense i was listening to canadian radio. they had a driveway moment where i sat and listened to the story for a wild, late for my hockey game, because i heard this amazing interview with this young man, lindeman, who started -- dylanll in marion merrin, who started this project. was a next day there story at npr and in the new york times, and the story really blew up, and dylan was everywhere. we called him up and said, would you like to take heart in this? -- take part in this? that way
of picking who is that of depicting who is on screen was so powerful the way he was doing depicting who of is on screen was so powerful, the way he was doing it. we will talk about what he is up to now and let him present a few more of his edits of film. we are going to start with a few works from dylan from "every single word." ♪ >> whom do you serve? auruman. >> find the halflings. >> what is there? >> i'm starving.
and bring home the point. we started talking about what would that look like if we films? to history for a long time we at the museum had been working with the geena on gender ande media, and looking at the studies of dr. stacy smith out of ufc. time dylan was popular, her study was published. we were looking at 700 popular films and finding they were all male and white. the geena davis institute had studied, over the period of -- even if growth you look at crowd scenes, for instance. crowd scenes are consistently 17% female.
we know from world history that we aren't 17% female. dylan is going to come up and a few you knew edits of popular films on history and talk a little bit about his project. [applause] dylan: thank you for being here, thank you for having me. started, let's just watch -- before i get started, let's just watch a few more videos. the first video is the 1931 best feature. tells the story of the oklahoma land rush of 1889. let's take a look. ♪
dylan: so considerably longer than the entire load of the rings trilogy, about four times the length of the whole trilogy, but the question is what roles? let's move on to a more current movie. for a time it was the highest grossing movie until it was the throned by avatar -- until it was dethroned by avatar. let's move on to titanic. this is what it looks like. ♪ --jack you are italian] i am going to america.
goodbye, i will never forget you. i can see the statue of liberty already. very small, of course. this is nice. she's english. bravo. dylan: all we know about that character is he is italian, which would not qualify him, but he is played by a moroccan actor, so that is why i included him. what about a movie that came out he following year? steven spielberg's world war ii epic, "saving private ryan." ♪
but surely a movie that came out in 2016, like suffer just -- te will probably not fall into the same traps, so let's take a look at back. i went to the theater to see "s uffragette" so i can make this video for you. very nervous i would have to do some illegal ripping, and i didn't. there is not a single person of color seen on screen, even in the background. so i first became aware of race in the film industry as an actor. when i was in third grade i went
to a nationwide testing call for a home alone reboot, does anybody remember that? , 20 of fox,hree good idea? to all ethnicities, in a huge auditorium hundreds of kevin mcallister's sat hopeful and excited. kids come upfirst and be judged for the first round of cuts, only the white the secondaking round. i began to write and began meeting with agents in high school, who called me in, praised my talent, and told me how little work there would be out there for me. many added i would never play the romantic world lead, and many would laugh as they said this. that trend continued. agents were eager to meet me and seemingly just as eager to tell me there was very little work
for my type. you begin to work there are a lot of euphemisms in this industry. every single award series as a means to display why, i was frequently told that i was good enough to deserve work, but unlikely to get it. films that told universal stories but just cast white people as default. lord of the rings tells the story of an epic journey for a ring, et is about a boy , ariending an alien, jaws shark terrorizes a small each town but municipal politics get in the way. the lord of the rings trilogy is not about hobbits wrestling with their white privilege. et does not feature a monologue from ed -- from elliott explaining how race works to his new extraterrestrial friend, and the titular villain injustice victim byn their
race. why then, when films till these universal stories, is whiteness the excepted north? i chose not to edit films -- accepted norm? i chose not to edit films based on a true story. then i had to ask myself the same question i asked with my earlier videos, why do we accept this as truth? y, especially in historical fiction, do we have limits for what we regard to as unrealistic? was anyone here for last night's screening of "heart of the sea?" brendan gleeson, playing the real thomas nickerson, asks herman melville how much of his story of the whale melville will use for his forthcoming novel. melville explains it will be a
work of fiction, inspired by truth, but i won't insist the need to use all of it. what is acceptable fiction he go -- acceptable fiction? ragette, the film is seen through the eyes of a action of composite character who interacts with many real ones. the screenwriter of saving private ryan was inspired to write his screenplay when he came across the civil war monument that memorialized eight siblings who died in battle. he transposed this story on the the backdrop of world war ii have the fictional narrative of the film. oklahomaof the real land brush is not through them -- through the fictionalized native american characters in the background, but the equally fictional -- only previously existed in the novel of the same
name. while james cameron showed us the titanic sinking in real time with attention to the technical accuracy of the ship, jack and rose never existed. is -- ove story this is a bonus trivia point. in 1931, mutiny on the bounty celebrated a historical film classic. it tells the story of a british crew who overthrew their tyrannical captain. in playing the real captain, clark gable does not speak with regarded accent he is as one of the greatest actors and film. we fictionalize history, our elements like accents and entire characters but other ailments like race not? what dictates believability?
it seems to me the history of what is taught to a is -- it seems to me the history of what is taught to us is by who taught -- who teaches us. burns went on to one of the toxic effects it can have, setting earth of a nation as a film that taught the dangerous i want toive history take a metaphor further. -- ifth of a nation is my birth of a nation is arsenic, ?hat is mold george kerber coined the term symbolic annihilation. he writes that absence is symbolic annihilation. can this not also be applied to historical fiction?
i'm honored to be here at the smithsonian, an institution whose history is made freed at accessible to all who want to learn it. but in film accessibility has more than just financial barriers. maybe we can accept the importance of reputational accessibility, so that when we make history all of us, not only some of us, can see all of our own historical avatars on screen and understand that even then our stories matter. thank you. [applause] chris: i'm going to ask the panel to take their seats. "birth ofay as well, a nation," give a plug to a similar topic. on sunday we will be doing a discussion hosted by backsotry
of american history guys, the radio show. today we have a wonderful panel, and our moderator is kelly carter. kelly is on and the awaiting -- is an emmy-winning entertainment journalist. of was this year's recipient the michigan chronicle's 40 under 40 awards for journalistic achievement. [applause] kelly: thank you. thank you so much. i'm happy to be here. try and do this off the dome, but because this panel is so dynamic, i am forced to read from some papers i can tell you who is on our panel,
even though i am sure you are well aware of the enrichment we have here today. first up we have fill a dad -- o'brien.e have he is ceo of a multimedia production and distribution company. they take a challenging look at the device of issues and race, class, poverty, and opportunity through a personal lens. welcome. [applause] -- to me we have peabody award-winning filmmaker, director of jesse o of freedomroducer riders. grant was also producer of american experiences, which received a volume for best
documentary feature and in 2005, due to the films unpublished eyewitness accounts and research and the department of justice -- the department of justice, excuse me, reopened the murder case. welcome. you all already met dylan marron. aat you don't know is he is drama desk nominated writer based in new york city. he is the voice of carlos on the hit podcast welcome to the knightda vale. he is the creator of a video series that edits down popular films to only line spoken by persons of color.
last but certainly not least is elizabeth --, who is a professor of history at harvard university. she was a coproducer of a film recently screened that upon it's won the best documentary award. panelist -- i would like to start here for the panelist. is interesting one of the films you headed down was -- you edited down was sitting private wine. ryan.ing private we were talking about the miracle of saint anna. he pushed toeason make that film was there were no
war drum that even remotely --ched on the black soldiers no war drama that even remotely touched on the black soldiers. it upon directors of color to experiencesose are reflected? i would like to hear someone jump in on that. dylan bank -- dylan: i hear this a lot. i'm just going to tangle so i can see you a little. you hear this get thrown out -- going to angles like and see you i can seeo angle so you. apatow say we need more creators of color.
but there are people of color, artists, who are creating work as we speak. they are just not being sent out on big platforms. big issue i raise with every single word is how are we casting universal stories? we cannot only assume that white people are going to cast a white , wherein universal roles no race is specified. i think it is upon everyone, and not just creators of color, who will naturally be making diverse stories. m [inaudible] -- >> [inaudible]
i completely agree. i think if you are waiting for creators of color you are waiting for a long time. they often don't get the platform they need. i will give you an analogy in television, where a lot of i work has appeared. what we would do is we would go out into man on the street. if we were to go out -- if i were to go out and grab random people talking about an issue, man on the street interviews, and i came back with 15 black sample, whatrandom is your reaction to the events on paris person on the streets? we got 15ld say -- black people we can't have that. we have to go out and get some diverse city. you are telling a story, it has to have the feel of everybody's perspective. but i can't tell you the number of times where people come back and have 10 or 15 white people
and nobody has the sense that this is abnormal, this is weird. it is really about your prism at the end of the day. whene feel comfortable their prism blocks out other people's stories. i think that's what the issue is. if you put the onus on people telling stories, i think it is incredibly unfair. my favorite are the ones where there is absolutely nothing. i think it speaks volumes and that is the real challenge, and everybody has to's -- has to think about what they can do to make it more equitable. >> i would throw in the point of view and access. those are just the obvious elephant in the room, as well as secret weapon. how a story is shaped.
colore ways people of will have the triple or being thaturdens, much more qualified and getting in the door. seeing our images being so ms. recep -- so misrepresented for so long, there certainly has been an increase and exciting time in television and in films. we don't get called for the other job. i'm not going to get to you name it story. that's just how it is. i'm happy to work on any -- i find people in history fascinating. we all know who it's going to get a call to do the you name it story of a sweeping group of individuals from i wish -- from
irish-americans, all those be told. to the comes african-american experience, as huge as it is, maybe jazz or rock or history, we often don't even get those calls. i think there is a lot of work that needs to be done to correct the lens. i don't see that as a negative all the time. ande that as a powerful exciting tool to use. stories thatforth we know are told and some other gems that don't even get the light of day. we haven't the idea that that is that -- we have the idea that is a this stereotypical. if we work on other projects, ,ike latin america usa storytelling is basic as it is,
it is very powerful and shapes your imagination. the more we can be shaping that point of view, it makes the tapestry richer. would like to add that when several people talked about griffith and birth of a nation, within our gates, which was done by oscar michelle, was a response to that. he financially -- he independently financed it and film that in the 1920's. what i would like to remind people is there is that cultural continuity that african-americans have, who decide there needs to be a response and reaction, and they put it on film. i recently heard a wonderful filmsdocumenting the shown in churches in the 30's and 40's.
african-americans have a long of responding and creating these media images on film. unfortunately we generally don't know about it. we think this is a rather new phenomenon. to see the people began to realize there were these local and regional responses that aren't necessarily telling the speaking -- these sweeping universal stories. they are responding, they are reacting, and they are social fabric we live in. we understand how long we have been doing it. what is in them -- what is important is an institution like the smithsonian and others. >> all really great points.
inn i think about filmmaking 2016 and black female filmmakers , there were three that made feature films. that meant all the films that cannot last year, there were ,hree feature films, selma beyond the lights, and --, that featured a black woman prominently. i guess my question is what is the challenge to ensure that the are just placed on the three people who happen to look like that and make up that gender type to make that happen. how do we do that? >> they better make money. honestly, as you know, what will happen as you are judged -- what will happen is you are judged by your first failure. they better do well because they will be the standard by which anything else is judged down the
road. i think that has become challenging for filmmakers. >> adding to that, those were such unique different stories. the theaters were full. everything has to make $1 billion opening weekend create -- opening weekend. they all keep saying they are retiring every minute because they are frustrated. they have created many of these john rose of filmmaking. in some ways we are sort of awash in this hyperreality of monetization. but maybe because we are in this 21st century of social media, with news about different types of stories out there, maybe that can help these other films, be they on whatever subject, the
midrange to independent films. people are interested, they do trends on social media. looking at the glass half full, the theater can be full, but straight out of compton that blew everybody away. they fall in love and something happens in the end. we all forget that as part of the human experience. end,is the takeaway in the you just want to have a captivating story. >> i'm a new convert to but i'm obsessed with them now.
one was the vanguard, the black panthers documentary. it made me feel sad we haven't seen this explored several times in feature films the way i think other segments of our history have been examined. only placetaries the we can expect to see some of these accurate per trails -- accurate portrayals? are we supposed to allow the documentaries to carry the heavy load here? >> i would love to know everyone else's thought. certainly it is brought out of passion. the economic stakes aren't the same. the documentary world and feature film world, they are -- we have the long tail.
we don't have to open in every theater. but that said, because hollywood is figuring itself out, there has been this huge space in the documentary world. you can literally have a some roger,on salsa. maybe they speak to that space. news is changing. everything is changing. is fairlyntary rightly or wrongly having that burden. the economy is so much smaller that they are passion projects.
much less in a theater. this is a whole other situation. historian that did a dissertation of american women, to work in homes, you are talking about an invisible work that invisible group of women. -- talking about an invisible group of women. they were very self-sustaining. and nothing could be as rewarding as a documentary. you honestly have to put your not -- put your life on hold to get it done. but the payoff is when you see a documentary with these women and
they were explaining being born in midnight mississippi. , we goes on to talk about saw a young man on visual impairment. that kind of testimony allows you to understand why film and media and documentaries are so important. i think as you said the onus should not be on documentaries, persons who want to produce documentaries. when you pick up that mantle, you decide how seriously address whatever topic you are interested in. one of the things i'm happy about his film makers are looking at documentaries and seeing how for feature films, that provide a
great resource for feature films, the story is there, the power is there, the passion of the people is right there. i think you have touched on a point that documentaries in the past half and in the future will, this important area of filmmakers, whether it is those who really understand it. i think it informs the public in a very important way, that is not -- that is monetization can't touch upon it. you really nailed it completely with this issue about how rich documentaries are and why they are so important. >> i just want to add i think that in the same way we are seeing a democratization of the internet, i think there is a democratization of people who want the good story and also want the right story.
we have seen that twice this year. documentary of simone on netflix. in a lot of ways i saw that popularity as a reaction to the simone mightina not be finding a distributor. people wanted the story, they wanted the story of nina simone and they founded. and they found a really well told story. quiet the future here, he documentary is -- choir to the preacher here, the documentary has the same structure, you have exposition, bring it up, climax, bring it down. example i am thinking
of is stone wall. emmerich attempt to bring stone wall to the public consciousness, and we were like, no thank you. you allmmerich, to fill in, he directed movies like independence day, big epic movies. work queererased the women of color in the stonewall. -- in the stonewall movie. i saw in the own internet uprising of calling that out is that it is not ok, it is not ok to tell the story from this beefy corn fed blonde fictional guy who never existed, is not ok to tell that story, so the film tanked. instead of a lot of people where
sharing netflix links to the stonewall documentary and the documentary of marsha p washington. documentaries will occupy the space of let's trust of this. -- of let's trust this. agree with you we have to use it as a source material. i take a movie like titanic, a lot of times when we use documentaries as source material , we set it in a backdrop but pushed a fictional story onto to it, so we can have our in. titanic is much sexier if our in is a love story. the love stories we see on screen, and when i was told i was never going to play them -- play the romantic male lead,
that is saying some think symbolically dangerous. that is taking people's permission a way to fall in love , if the only story being trade on screen is attractive white people. i just wanted to say out loud you got me thinking about that, and the documentary can be our source material, but what fictional story are we pasting on top of it? intention is to open up questions to the audience. there are a couple of microphones set up. you-up and we will call on to ask our panel. along the lines of what we were just discussing about, i would love to hear about the challenges, if there are any, with getting some of those compelling diverse stories brought to life. i know the financing is one thing. guys experiencing any type of push back the way i hear from feature film directors and
producers with getting stories made? >> certainly come our latin american documentary series and even latino american documentary series, there are so many crazy stories that my executive producer -- many crazy stories -- my executive producers here. i will give you an example from latina america. was a point there discussion about the number of latinos who are american. our puertostion was rico's american? -- areprimary goes puerto rico's american? people working on the dock. it was terrifying on one level and really tell if -- and really
terrifying on a lot of other levels. if you are grappling with this material here, i am concerned about this. the man said that two latinos on the project would be ever vigilant, and that makes you not a run and friendly person. you are constantly debating and arguing and saying i remember one of our black america docs featured a white woman who was doing a project with kids who parents were in prison. we only do one per year. i think there are lots of stories. it is not like we are out of stories. costs -- you are constantly butting up against those kinds of things. i could really tell you a lot of stories. we would have a lot of intense
arguments with a lot of producers and the producers would be the first path. i remember having a bate about one of our latin american docs. she was a college student and we were following her path. gloria's mother is a crack addict and gloria's father is an alcoholic. into close to a fistfight kind of thing. thatse we really don't do with suburban white kids. if we are talking about 12-year-old little bobby jones, we would say bobby jones is 12 years old. he sleeps every night with a mint under his bed because one day he is going to be derek cheater.
when it comes to people who are poor and people of color and usually the intersection of the two. suddenly we use these brushes, these shorthands, they live in the ghetto, mom is a crack addict. it was frustrating. you would have to go back and rescript things. it completely dehumanizes this girl who plays lacrosse on a successful lacrosse team, who is a b student, who is a peer counselor, and who has a life outside of these other things. i think we spent a lot of time trying to shove humanity back into stories. it was really stressful, really challenging. will leave you with one last story that we were discussing earlier today, which is at one point we were taking our first latin american dock to the tv critics association.
the first learn from -- what did you learn from the every so person, whether wealthy, middle-class, or in poverty, told the same story about the police. as i was interviewing people, no matter what their socioeconomic would say, the same script. when my son turned to 12 we took him aside and said if you are ever stopped by police, what you are going to do is put your hands on the wheel, do not move. i thought that was very interesting. at the end of the conversation my boss took me aside and said, that is not true. white people do that as well. i said not really. when you are talking about black families, what i found interesting is the matter the socioeconomic status, the
conversation was in order to survive this encounter this is what you should do. why people don't have this conversation with their sons. he said, you are mistaken, you should never say that again. ok. but this is a project i had been reporting for the last 18 months. you constantly are like no, your lens is wrong. i could give you a million more stories. it is challenging. at the same time i was grateful we got a platform. it was a lot of time, it cost a lot of money. those things are fantastic. battlenitely felt like a and tremendous pressure to get it right. i was they felt like face of it and whatever was wrong with it would certainly fall on my shoulders. >> now that you are ceo of your own company, when you went into
this new chapter, what were some of the first things that you did to reshape how you approach content? >> the great news is you have -- you don't have arguments with people. you want to be informed so you hire people who are going to be challenging and pushing you. that is great in a creative process. the thing that was frustrating was the people who don't know, to tell you what is uncomfortable to them and the narrative they have about their story. i spent thesaid last 18 months reporting the story, i disagree. i found my research contradicts yours. i would be happy to sit down and talk about our competing research. what he translated was, i am uncomfortable. the narrative, which i have not studied at all, what you're telling me does not match that.
i'm in a position of authority to tell you to stop. able to do,t to be certainly as a boss, you want to bring that out in people. you want them to say the experience is different, they know different and they know better, maybe. then we go on and explore it and then research it. all of our documentaries are character centered, but based on -- hopefullyrch, i we are doing it better and if we have a bias toward something, people are telling you what the real story is. >> how do you take something and utilize it and apply it so it resonates with meaning? i was thinking, to keep students engaged we use snippets of film.
it was part of the ken burns film on the civil war. even just a few few minutes we used i could see them glassing over. i thought i have a brilliant graduate assistant, we talked about power. we talked about the link of power etc.. i hadduate student and quickly talked. i connected it to was something i knew the students could grab onto. lincoln.e about i spoke to -- i spoke about him as this father figure. i related it to my students to man is going on with bird and cash money, which is a company, and little wayne pulling out. how could he then take young money, and the other artists are
leaving? my students could then talk about this whole issue of secession. of --ed about this issue you can engage students. from the teaching educational part, film has an important and powerful role area but then how do you take it to the next step so that contemporary students understand it and utilize it? i complemented so that we use that. play $5,000. >> but you do use it. it becomes a catalyst for conversation. documentary,tional i had to take that whole
situation of separation. you can take it and utilize history to bring power to contemporary films. we have a unique opportunity that we seize upon if we want people to take it to the next level. we are in this so it doesn't itt remain stagnant, so moves this conversation forward, so it moves students with power and thought. it is how you do it, and i think he has an important role in doing it. also touchinge on, which needs to be said, is the importance of celebrity. spike lee's malcolm x lets a lot of people in because they are watching their beloved denzel washington in their become malcolm x..
it is not surprising to me that using nicki minaj is a big way to get into your students. that is the in that especially youth and so many people have. titanic are watching you are watching leonardo dicaprio, your own heartthrob. this is why we have so many storytellers on the stage. i was thinking about that for you to create especially that for you. -- i was especially thinking about that for you. journalism, the avatar is you. you are the one who are navigating for us, we are seeing it through your eyes. is why this issue is much more complex. it is about the stories being
told. , fact,you get the fact fact documentary, which is a huge contribution to the study of civil war and serves a different purpose, how can you engage people fully? i think there have been really brilliant ways to talk about big social issues through heavy gloss of tv drama the. asking we need to keep those questions and to know that it comes from all sides. frustrating,d clearly she has worked out the magic. she has one after the however -- one after the other after the other. there are people with color, some are just extras walking by, some are doctors. this looks like nyu medical center.
this is the reality of america today. about even talks though it is repeated, that was the one-off accident. i think abc has done a terrific job, where they have looked at their kids shows first, and they had characters. i remember my kids watching all the kid -- all the characters were diverse. i think that was fertile ground for someone like shonda come in and create the work she is doing. for some reason someone doesn't say there is the formula, make it like a, have interesting characters. she is turning them out over and over again. still we see some of t statistics. no one is learning that lesson.
that is just magic over there. there is no lesson we are learning from that. i find that frustrating, it really annoys me. >> i agree. thank you for your words, but also for speaking up. companyyou own your own you can say anything you want. the only one in the room or just lower on the totem pole. when and how do you speak up or even find your voice? is not something there's necessarily a template playbook or. industry,ugh this seeing some of these red flags or comments or asides or assumptions, and they have rough ,uts reading with executives why don't we get more cotton shots? we have such a rich experience.
the african-american experience and how to voice your self. if you don't speak up, then it does repeat itself. battles, youur want to win the war but nothing the battle, all those cliches. they really do come and play because in a way this is a very privileged industry and high-stakes, high egos, everybody has stuff on the line. maybe that is how you think of it. that is what people are going to see. that is how i try to come to the mat and think why don't we look at this lens a little bit differently?
we haven't really explored that chapter of what it was like to be in the segregated midwest. we know the southern part. it was an easy story. as a film maker you should put you should push yourself and not go for the easy trope. how do you bring something new to someone's individual experience, who also experienced it in this country? mile have to go the extra to find engaging stories. people want to see it. i don't want to be board at my own movie. what do i have to do? people always tell us you are doing a historical documentary, teenagers are never going see it. children of color are never
going to be interested, never going to be engaged, and i don't sugarcoat it, i don't undersell them. it was amazing to see them. yesterdayhear how they engage r way, what they pick up on. i don't think there should be a separate children's cut. i don't know if it is good or bad, i am not an educator. but this stuff happens, and you should see what happens. i'm making a documentary experience. >> storytelling. at the end of the day, i used to use my skids for every -- is my kids for every documentary. is this a good idea? do you think you should watch three hours? i don't know, let's see what happens. i would have that watch a rough cut and i would know what we needed to fix. if they got up -- and they
interviewing chicano white pickersnd negroesidwest, and then who made the annual trek from florida to new england picking vegetables. it's a good example of making the effort. the white mother struggling to keep her family together in feed the kids in the midwest was addressed as missus, and the single mother apparently in florida was addressed as arlene by the producer. we've come a long way on some things, but i do want to ask you reason,e value, or good against using producers on screen when you have a heavy
topic. i've used producers in our doc, so anytime anyone gets a valuable chunk of an interview, you absolutely should use it. o think sometimes there's a sense that if there is talent in the doc that they want that person to be telling the story, but i have never gotten a lot of direction about that. no one has ever said don't use the producers voice. i agree with you. it feels like more people are involved in this project, i think it is great. >> anyone else? >> i've never been asked that question. [laughter] >> i like being behind the camera and i like my credit, but now we are in this new age of social media so i am recognizing we have to be on facebook and all that. but yeah, i'm a
behind-the-scenes person. question? >> can you hear me? this goes off what you were talking about with the entertainment value of movies, something about how do you balance the entertainment value versus the education value. if we might have to think of history movies in different ways than we think about an entirely functional movies, or history movies have more of a inform aslity to opposed to other movies that might just be for entertainment. i'm wondering what you thought. >> if i could answer that in one major documentary that i did, teaching isme --
not easy -- [laughter] >> working with stanley nelson, these are the facts, these are the women, they are so great, they are so wonderful, and stanley was going to college again. he insisted you can't have it just a straight story. compelling thing that anybody who watches the documentary comes away with is he used a part of a parable rotund about this very older black woman, and a younger, beautiful woman comes up and says, mammy, this is the old way. he was putting it in the important part of the film. when you have two people producing it, it can be less than present. -- less than pleasant.
we then went back and cut in so --t the woman talked about we showed several people this piece and one woman said, no beat on that washboard, so they were able to, by cutting it in -- it gave the same power in terms of history, but that entertainment value has to be there. had the times i unpleasant duty of going through the national archives and looking at all these films about household workers, domestic workers. in because that allows the voice to come in. for me and, the works i have seen ones that are so very the ones ire combined someone like me with a strong history background in this concern about the topic. -- and i think they understand that value, by
getting out the universal stories are important -- oh when you bring it down to those individual levels, it takes it to an important and critical height. i think there is an engagement that is so important between history and so makers. importantly, historians and filmmakers working together. stories thatse want to be told, you can get a little bit on the edge of whether it is historically sound. i think there is a wonderful gage thosey to en aspects of the historical truth and you said entertainment value -- but what keeps the audience engaged. that is a wonderful combination, and i think it works very well for those viewing the film, the documentary, the work we are doing. >> you used a great word, too.
you said balance. that is a good way to think about it and i think the flip side of balance is attention. tension is what produces art. when you make are you are excited to make art, but you also need something to say. there always has to be both sides responding to each other. you want to make something, but you also know there is a reason you want to do it beyond just being in front of the camera, editing film, interviewing people. i think in the best historical films, that tension is present. it happenshappens -- in documentary, too. entertainment, i think we should also understand this, is a very liberal terms. the way i am using it is a very liberal term. when youocumentaries,
are setting up in establishing shot of an exterior, you want to make that shot compelling, you want to make it entertaining. that not saying documentaries are just people sitting in front of a camera reading a room or to you. -- reading a report to you. we are using the privilege of the visual medium to tell the story. but i also think it can be woven in really seamlessly to movies where you don't know that you are learning. ryan,"d "saving private and i just watched it for the first time, and i think that movie is profoundly successful at that. it features no people of color, there arees facts, real conversations in the context of the history that they are living in that don't make you feel like you are being taught things, because you are attaching your empathy to the central characters and their
search. they are looking for private ryan, so you go along with that. it takes you through these corridors of history that are really fascinating. that balance there i think was tension and i think they are one and the same. >> great question. >> i would say -- it is interesting. maybe in some ways the films choose the filmmaker. thesenly in hollywood, are sweeping generalization -- they attack a film of all algorithms. who's bankable, how much will it make opening weekend, how well will it do overseas. it interesting enough, do you have a strong educational and/or outreach or impacts component? that said, hollywood with their resources, they can re-create villages. they can spend so much time and in theon to the wardrobe
hope that all that period detail can be beautiful and stunning to look at. lincoln -- all that detail was amazing, but frederick douglass is in the film at all. it's -- that's maybe the length of the film makers. others didn't do so well at the box office, but it was a passion project by that particular director that took 10, 20, 30 years to do. angelina jolie finally did her story. you can certainly watch documentaries, all of them will be riveting. al orwill be factionatu boring -- it is all subjective. what moves you, in the end? if you are moved by something, touched by something. we always remember the jens that move us or make us laugh. how do i fit that in the film?
it's up to you to try and put those elements in the film so it feels like you are on a ride, on a journey with the film in the filmmaker. either archival footage or archival imagery if you aren't re-creating. you have to figure out how to create the world that you are telling, be it to biblical 1960's.920's, i think some of that can come with the filmmaker and their prowess and how they mix and balance the entertainment and historical value. >> fantastic, thank you for that. question over here. >> yes. anither saw or read interview with a director who it was his first time
given the opportunity to do a big budget film, and normally he would cast a minority, but he was told that in anything where the international distribution was expected to be a player, and this was a big budget film, he was told that in large areas that will kill overseas sales. can you comment on that? and the other is -- someone should stab and stomp -- part?as your second [laughter] >> i've never been given a big budget opportunity, so i certainly don't know. i have trouble believing that anyone making films at that level would listen to a person if they thought they didn't have any sense. i am guessing there is truth there. i felt like your answer was
flippant -- >> no, no. i would love you to finish. that is something you hear a lot and when you are done i will answer. it is partly true and there are certain areas where it is true. both countries where it is difficult to sell black actors. but there is a persistent myth that -- it has been deconstructed and it turns out it is not so true. i put it in the same category as the pipeline myth. we'd love to have a black director, there just aren't any. we would love a person of color, but the pipeline. there is this myth of this terrible pipeline that is the problem. i put it in that same category. there is a little truth to it and there are countries where it is true, but it is not fully true, and i think people use it handily as an excuse to say here's what we should do instead. there is a fair amount of literature on that. again, this article in "the new
york times" today -- if you google it, they talk to 100 female filmmakers who are all very frustrated about these other myths, like women don't want to do big blockbusters, that's why they are doing them. that's all. i was certainly not trying to be flippant, i was just saying that these myths sometimes pop up so frequently that it's frustrating. but you had a second part, so i wanted you to finish. >> yeah. the other -- in a lot of recent films which have had films are documentaries of things which --e a strong minority focus myfeeling is a lot of them, part of the audience comes away with a guilt trip. it's a turnoff. if you know the film is going to slavery 400ok,
years, no one questions that. but the focus of the film is going to be a guilt trip. go, hard to say or want to even though i went to the atlas theater yesterday to go see the in they hadrwanda, a talkback afterward and the guy said, look, i'm expecting you to be uncomfortable. rwanda, anyone in the audience -- they're there because they knew. my question is, i think back to "roots," a blockbuster in every blew of the term, and it away -- just a big surprise that it was as successful as it was. audience across everything. where are minority stories that
have a chance going in that direction, which aren't really which, for a certain segment of people, leaves a difficult taste? >> i've got to tell you. what you're pointing out is what makes conversations about race challenging. nobody wants to be the oppressed and the oppressor. for people who are complaining it is no form for them, for people who feel like they are the greatest presser -- fun for me. what you say has a lot of merit, but ultimately, it comes back to storytelling. a great story is a great story. a great storyots" is that you care about the characters. by the way, they are remaking "roots." but you want to know what happens. you follow that because it is well-written and compelling, and regardless of what could be a more challenging historical but it is told in a way
that is interesting and well done and i think that opens the door for all audiences. -- i'muld like to say not making major money as a filmmaker, but when you talk about places that one except african-americans, those very places except african-americans culture in other ways. are areas and ways in which you can use these things mor, more comfortable areas of art, to engage them to a segue of others. when you said comfortable topics, most people coming across the atlantic -- it is not a pretty sry. but you can do something like "titanic." you can tell the story. there are ways you can tell african-american stories -- i don't care what they are -- you can tell them in a way that is compelling and truthful, using
the same mechanisms you use for individuals talking about the holocaust experience or asian experiences on the west coast. there are ways of doing it. do we have a person that will be hired as a filmmaker? do we have the people, the technical people, who don't make it look so stiff and horrible? there are ways to do it, and i think it is almost beyond saying can it be done. it can be done. but it gets back to what you are saying. is there this commitment to tell these stories correctly? they will resonate with audiences -- i don't care where they are. some of those same audiences embrace areas of african-american culture without any problem. i just think those are the easy ways of getting around the big reality. >> one quick thing. i done think it is completely relevant to the topic but i think there is a part that is.
when we were doing our "black in america" series -- there was a sense of, with this drive away the way people? you laugh, but this is truly an undertone. we are committed to this thing, tons of money poured in, a time of support. but what is going to happen? what they found was that the black audience was massive, and they found that the white audience -- both audiences were absolutely fascinated, and that made it wildly successful. beyond what anybody thought it would do. even thoughlling, the fear underath it was will people really want to see something that is called "black in america?" why people don't need to watch this, it is not necessarily for you. people were concerned even about the title. when we did "latino in america," lationos watched in higher numbers, and african-americans watched a massive numbers. i think sometimes these things
they aremakes sense, not always necessarily true. it's around the storytelling. >> i was just going to say that, part, whenhe most you are white in this country, you were not brought up having to confront that. feel when you you see a really difficult story demands to be leaned into. think we train white people to address their own race. i learned i was brown right from the beginning. you learned you are brown, black, any color that is not white, you are immediately aware of that. think when we are talking thinkdiscomfort, i also we are not used to seeing
stories that press back on power hasquestion the role that been played, so we are not immune to that. say. is so much more to >> i do want to interpret his question, but as a moviegoer, paying my $12, $50 -- i don't want to be in comfortable. i want to go to a movie and have a good experience. morally, yes, i should lean in, but tonight, with my $15, i don't want to be entertained -- i want to be entertained, and i don't want to feel like i am guilty. i understand the perspective. >> the jackie robinson story, the james brown story. tremendously -- i thought they did well at the box office and were solid stories.
telling the stories of various people does not have to be uncomfortable. you can do it and do it well, and it doesn't have to -- the messages there, particularly for younger people, they are a student they get it,. frequently in my classes when we talk about cultural tourism, people think you only want to go to certain places and see certain things. now we are learning that people are very interested in seeing the slave cabins. when you go to monticello, you don't have to whisper. everybody knows she and thomas ,efferson had five children that you hadlantations and people want to see. we know that plantations were kept going by people picking cotton. in the midwest, farmworkers on the west coast. people want to see that as a part of where they go to these individual places, and i don't
think that film and television and media in general have to ,void it if you do it well people are going to embrace it and support it. . people will see it with more regularity. the more it is done the more it is becoming common. >> i think we have time for one last question. no pressure. [laughter] >> hi. i don't have a question, i have a comment. i am a documentary producer. just like you, i am in love with documentaries. husband watches sports downstairs and i'm watching documentaries upstairs. i produced a documentary that received an emmy, and it is called "dance party." it's about an african-american
teen television dance show of the 1960's that was produced and aired here in washington, d.c. if you want to call it the black bandstand. in telling the story, as i interviewed quite a number of people who danced on the show, just theshow that was jewel of the african-american community here in the nation's capital. i told this story not from a perspective of, i danced on tv, i had a good time, i've met all the music stars, the smokey robinsons and james browns, whoever. i told it not just from that
story of someone who danced on state of but also the black america, the state of white america during that time, which made it as to why we had to have a black teen television show and a white teen television show, because black teenagers were not allowed on white television shows, or if they were, it was one day a week, which the local show here in washington, d.c., the white show, had black tuesday. that was the only day black thatgers could dance on show. in baltimore there was "the buddy dean show," which is what
"hairspray" was created from. they had a black day on "the buddy dean shall." but i say all of this to say, in the end, people -- i just felt that i had to tell the story of what was going on in america at have ame, why we had to black show and a white show. in the end, when i told the story, people -- especially those who danced on that show when they were teenagers -- they didn't realize what was going on around them. the didn't really realize racism that was going on around them because they had their old black neighborhood where they had their own entertainment and they had their own enterprise and their own shopping. they didn't realize. but then they learned what was going on around them, and they were like oh, my god.
in telling the story, i was proud of the fact that people had a chance to learn not only the story of a black teen television show, but anything that was going on around them. whut howardpbs, and university television was the presenting station. it got offered for syndication. distribution, i'm sorry. i thought you had to have a minimum of 25 stations that wanted to pick it up, and i was in shock when 150 picked it up. i was shocked. i really feel like that's my pride and joy. >> great story. >> congratulations. [laughter] [applause] >> and thank you guys so much. such a great, informative panel.
that was awesome. [applause] thanks to the whole panel. i look forward to seeing you here for additional programs during the film forum and "black panthers" will be playing here on sunday. thank you very much for coming. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] >> you are watching american history tv. 48 hours of programming on american history every weekend on c-span3. forow us on twitter information on our schedule and to keep up with the latest history news.